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276 B. POLEVOI
hitherto regarded as attainable only by a man of perfect
physical fitness, and then only by one out of a hundred.
You are not simply Citizen Meresyev, you are a great
experimenter----Ah! I've got it going at last! It must
have been stopped up with something----And so I say,
we cannot, we have no right to treat you as an ordinary
airman, no right, do you understand? You have started
an important experiment, and it is our duty to help you in
every way we can. But in what way? That you must tell
us. What can we do to help you?"
Kapustin refilled his pipe, lit up again, and again the
red glow, appearing and vanishing, snatched his broad
face and fleshy nose out of the gloom.
He promised to arrange with the chief of the school to
allow Meresyev an extra number of flights, and suggested
to Alexei that he should draw up a training programme
"But look how much fuel that will take!" said Alexei
regretfully, amazed at the simple way this little, ungainly
man had dissolved all his doubts.
"Fuel is important, of course, especially now. We
measure it out by the thimbleful. But there are things
more precious than fuel," answered Kapustin, and with
that he carefully knocked the warm ashes out of his pipe
against his heel.
Next day Meresyev commenced to train alone, and lie
did this not only with the perseverance he had shown
when he was learning to walk, run and dance; he did it
like one inspired. He tried to analyse the technique of
flying, to study every detail, to divide it into the minutest
motions, and to learn each one separately. He now studied,
yes, studied, what he had acquired instinctively in his
youth; he acquired intellectually what he had in the past
attained by practice and habit. Mentally dividing the pro-
cess of handling a plane into its component parts, he
learned the special knack for each of them and trans-
ferred all the working sensations of the feet to his shins.
This was very hard and painstaking work, and the
results were so small that they were barely perceptible.
Nevertheless, every time he went up Alexei felt that the
plane was becoming more and more grafted to him, that
it was becoming more obedient to him.